Do you know of any loans or grants that may be available to you? Are investors or crowdfunding an option? As an ever changing landscape of finance we can help in getting you the right guidance and help you need to take your business forward.
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A small business can fail for a variety of reasons, but money related issues are one of the main concerns. Even with a high-quality service or product, you will find it difficult to achieve success without a healthy cash flow to cover business expenses. Here are a few tips to help manage the finances:
A simple strategy is to set the clear financial goals for the future. This should relate to both the short-term and long-term. It can be difficult to know if a small business is reaching its targets and being successful if the financial goals aren’t determined at an early point of getting setup. In the process of setting the targets, it is useful to set a worst case and best case scenario. This will give a complete picture of how successful a business is and gives more time to take appropriate action if the desired income is not achieved.
The ability to maintain the finances is made that much easier with the right accountancy software in place. This type of software has a wide range of features and can help with tracking your financial picture, running reports on key metrics, and staying in touch with day-to-day expenses. The more advanced software can help to prepare tax forms or similar financial records. Plus, the accountancy software can significantly speed up the ability to manage the accounts, which means more time is available to work on other areas of the business.
A small business is certain to benefit from a system that prepares and delivers invoices as soon as a service or product is delivered. Staying on top of issuing the invoices means payments are regularly received for the work done without any extended delays. It can help to use software to speed up the process and automatically issue the invoices. Also, it is essential to chase up on any late payments to make sure a regular cash flow is maintained.
It helps to be ruthless with spending to avoid letting the finances get out of control. It is quite easy to spend more than intended on expensive equipment or taking on too many staff being you are really ready. The best course of action is to carefully manage the growth of the business and make sure it is reaching its targets before spending high sums on purchases or extra staff.
When you start a business, you have to be extra careful with how you spend your capital. There are many ways for small business owners to increase their profits. Reducing their costs is one of the simplest and most effective ones. A lot of the times, entrepreneurs would add costs to their budgets that they don’t necessarily have to make. It might appear to them that these are necessary expenses when that’s not the case. They can add many of these expenses once their business has established.
Expenses That Small Businesses Should Avoid
Yes, advertising is quite important for businesses, but excessive advertisement is not. It still makes sense for large businesses to go full-on with advertising because they have the budget to do so. However, when it comes to small businesses, they must do intelligent and selective advertising only. Their first course of action should be to identify the advertising channels that work best for them. Just because you are a restaurant at the corner of a street does not mean you have to use awnings, vinyls, neon signs, and all other types of materials for advertising purposes. Pick the ones that work and skip what doesn’t.
Too Many Work Hours
You don’t necessarily have to follow the trends of your competitors to compete with them. It does not matter how good they are, even the best ones can make mistakes at times. Many business owners choose to keep their premises opened for customers for long hours. They will open the business early in the morning and close it late at night just so they can serve more customers. However, one must do cost calculation before taking such a step? What if you are getting only five customers in the first three hours of the business and five more at the last two hours?
Now imagine the cost of utility, wages of your employees, etc. Are you covering the costs of keeping your business opened for five additional hours with only 10 customers? Even if you want to continue this way, you better test it for a week only. If the response is cold, you should quit this practice as soon as possible.
Pursuing the Best of Everything
The idea sounds great but is not the way to go about doing business when you are in your early stages. You should spend your money on things you need, not the things you want unless you have the budget to do so. If you are renting space for your office, you should look for a place that you can easily afford. Going for the best location in the most commercial area will cost you a lot of money. You can save your money even when it comes to internal equipment. Why buy new couches, seats and brand new computers when you can do with high-quality used equipment?
Why go for a printer with fancy looks and capacity to print hundreds of pages in a minute when you won’t ever need that many printouts at a time? Go with simple and beautiful when it comes to decorating your office. You don’t want to spend your budget on things that are not going to yield any benefits for your business.
Hiring IT Staff
IT is integral to any business today, tech or non-tech. However, it does not mean you have to have an IT team on board. One of the beauties of modern technology is that it allows you to outsource a lot of the business processes. The best thing about outsourcing business processes is that you can save a lot of money by doing so. Managed IT services are a perfect way for you to save IT costs while benefiting from expertise of the best professionals of the industry. Rather than paying thousands of dollars to three or four IT people, it makes more sense for small businesses to outsource their IT processes for a small monthly fee.
The good news is that you can outsource almost anything IT-related. From basic help-desk to on-demand data officers, IT outsourcing can cover a lot of ground for you.
Taking loans when starting a business is imperative for your growth and to have enough cash in hand to support your operations. However, there are more ways to fund your business than you might realize. Many small business owners follow venture capitalists and conventional banks when it comes time to fund their businesses. However, crowdfunding has emerged as an amazing funding option for startups and small businesses. The good thing about crowdfunding is that you do not necessarily have to offer equity to the investors in your business. Sometimes, you can just reward them with a sample of your product.
Hiring Only Full-time Employees
If you own a small business, you might want to consider hiring interns. Interns can benefit your business in many ways. First, you do not have to pay them the salary of a full-time employee. Second, you can ask them to do a lot of the mundane tasks that otherwise affect the productivity of your full-time employees negatively. While it might not be the best practice, in some countries of the world they have free internships as well wherein you do not have to pay your interns. However, that’s not the right thing to do, and you should compensate their work to keep them motivated.
You should consider avoiding these expenses if you are a small business owner or about to be one. You can always take advice from those who have their own businesses to figure out what’s necessary and what’s not. Keep yourself up-to-date with new technological advancements. Taking advantage of modern software and hardware solutions can help you save a lot of money. Take the example of a printer with duplex printing option. You could cut your paper costs in half by printing on both sides of the paper. In the end, look into your current setup and operations to see what some expenses are that you can easily live without.
When you are setting up a business, perfecting your brand, website design and marketing material is crucial. But as you get more heavily involved in servicing your customers it is so easy to forget to review your brand message and consider how your business presents itself to new customers.
So if you are keen to gain a little edge with your brand, take some time today to follow through with the 5 steps below:
1. Stand Out from the Crowd
You may be one of many businesses in your local area who is offering a similar product or service. Take 15 minutes today to examine your business model and identify what makes you different from your competitors. Does your product have any unique features? Do you take the services that your business provides to the next level?
Once you have established how you stand out from the crowd, make your audience and potential customer base aware of it. Make that quick phone call to your website designer today and be sure that this difference is being marketed in your website.
2. Consistency is Key
When was the last time you reviewed the brand message you are conveying to your customers in your marketing material and in your print, website and social media presence? Is the brand message consistent between all of them?
Take 30 minutes today to review all of your marketing and media presence. If you feel that your message may be getting lost, make a quick call to your advertising agency and express your concerns. They can make step in to make the changes to tighten up your brand presence across the board.
3. Flawless Customer Service
Customers appreciate quick, easy service and great communication. It isn’t always possible to respond to a new or existing customer’s queries immediately, but it is easy to let them know that you have received their message or email and that responding to it is a priority.
Use a tea or coffee break today to set up an automated response email and text message that can be sent to your customers as soon as they have made contact with you. Be sure to include an approximate time in which you intend to respond to them – customers will appreciate the reassurance.
4. Make Dealing with Your Business an Experience
No customer wants to think of themselves as just a number. Put some quick and simple initiatives into play today to let your customers know that they matter to you and to your business.
Set a policy in place today to send a thank you card to your customers when they do business with you. Start setting up calendar reminders for client birthdays and include a reminder to send them an email on that day. Take a video of you and your staff interacting in the office and post it to your blog or website this afternoon.
5. Get Some Feedback
Nothing speaks louder for your business’ brand than the voice of a satisfied customer.
Make sure to call or email 3 of your previous customers today and enquire as to whether they would be willing to provide a testimonial or review of your product or service. Make a quick phone call to your website designer and be sure that these testimonials are placed on your website as quickly as possible.
The use of social media in the last few years has had a huge impact on the way businesses and brands conduct themselves – from customer service to advertising and selling directly to customers on those platforms, there has been a great deal to learn and many changes to adjust to.
There are many different terms that use ‘Social’ as a descriptor – social media management, social selling, social media advertising; and while it’s tempting to combine these disciplines into one umbrella term, each discipline operates in significantly different ways, each with their own best practices and outcomes,
Social Selling Defined
Social selling is a vital tool which keeps your brand at the forefront of your customer’s mind; it’s a technique which utilises social media to identify your customers, connect with them, understand their needs, and encourage them to purchase from you.
Social selling techniques are used for cultivating brand awareness and building relationships on a more personalised level; something that is increasingly important with digitally savvy customers – your prospects want to feel that they matter to you, social selling gives you the tools to create personalised interactions with your audience and make them feel like appreciated.
Why is Social Selling Important?
Brands that don’t have an online presence are missing out on a huge potential market. Between December 2016 and January 2017, more than 1 in 5 of the global population shopped online. Having your brand name recognised and making potential customers aware of your company is the key to success.
In 2016 MarketCube (on behalf of LinkedIn) conducted a survey with 1017 US sales or business professionals – they found that more than 70% of their panel used social selling tools (including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter), and that 90% of the individuals in the group who were considered to be the ‘top salespeople’ of their respective businesses used these tools as part of their sales strategy.
In 2016, 97% of global online adults aged 16 to 64 used or visited a social media site at least once per month – an estimated 1 in every 3 minutes spent online was spent using social media – with an average daily engagement of nearly 2 hours (1hr 58 minutes)
Companies who are not seen engaging with their audience will soon fade from the public consciousness – but whilst publicity stunts and one-off events may generate a certain ‘buzz’ it will only last until the next interesting topic arises. Having a social selling strategy allows your company to respond to current events in a manner best suited to your business, it lets potential clients see that you are active and socially aware – encouraging them to engage with you, without having to create an ‘artificial’ engagement that may actually backfire and turn your intended audience away from you.
Having a strong strategy in place is vital, and social selling is one way to nurture and grow your rates of engagement, increase your brand awareness and promote a positive company reputation.
Social Selling can essentially be broken down into four main approaches – creating a strong brand, building relationships, engaging with your customers and focusing on your prospects.
In 2016, 91% of retail brands used two or more social media channels allowing them potential access to the 2.3 billion users who were active that year.
Why Do You Need Social Selling?
Having a social media presence gets you brand recognition, allows you to build relationships (not just with potential customers, but other businesses as well), and ensure your customer service is running at optimal speed.
There are many tools available (such as Google Analytics or Hootsuite) which allow you to optimise your approach to social media, and then record a quantifiable data stream to analyse. Getting the right balance of content, approach and channel exposure may take some time – you will need to fully understand who your customer is and what they want from you, then find out which social media platforms they make the most use of (there is no point targeting your advertising at a channel that your target audience doesn’t use).
Once you have created and optimised your customer profile and begun your engagement, you can use the social selling techniques to create further recognition and trust in your brand, generating new leads and potentially new sales.
Using the data provided by the analytic sites, you will be able to see which parts of your strategy are working, which aren’t – which could do with improvement, and which need to be expanded on because they’re doing well.
Social Selling gives you the tools to show your audience that your company is active, aware and approachable, and provides you with the data to turn those connections into potential sales.
Often small businesses fall into two traps around branding – that they can’t manage it because they are small and that it is primarily about products anyway. While branding does feature the products or services that a business offers, this is only a small part of it. And branding is something that can benefit businesses of all sizes as well as being accessible to everyone. Here are a few reasons to seriously consider working on your company branding.
What is Branding?
Branding is about creating a unique identity for your business that means even when you sell the same products or services as someone else, you can stand out from the crowd and attract customer attention. Small business branding can often be seen as difficult to do as you can’t compete with the big company in terms of resources or manpower. And while this might be the case with resources, it doesn’t mean your branding can’t work for you just as well as theirs.
People relate better to companies that have strong branding and an identity. They vote for which branding works for them with their shop visits, clicks or purchases. By having strong, cohesive branding, your company can be the one that they notice, feel a connection with and therefore purchase from. It can also create brand loyalty and those crucial returning customers.
Recognition Leads to Trust
One thing studies have shown is that recognition of a brand builds trust and people are more likely to buy from a company if they feel they can trust them. Therefore, trust and reputation are key to business success and branding plays a big part in this.
By having that strong, identifiable brand, even the smallest company can begin to build trust with customers. This leads to customer loyalty – 48% of customers say they are more likely to become loyal to the brand during their first experience or purchase with them.
There are lots of ways to create that brand to build trust with everything from catchy slogans and memorable names to attractive and eye-catching colour schemes being used. But the most effective brands combine something of everything. They work on the principle that we retain only around one-tenth of the information that we see when we read something.
But if you include visuals with that information, this rate of retention rises up to almost two thirds. Therefore, having that catchy slogan paired with great graphics, a clear colour palette, brand voice and other elements means you have a better chance of people remembering what you do. That’s why visuals are so popular on social media and almost three-quarters of marketers use them ahead of even video.
As you attract attention for your brand and build trust, then you start to create a reputation, be it online or in the physical world. Reputation is crucial for business – it covers everything from customer interactions, product standard, feedback and even how you reward your customers.
That strong, positive reputation can even convince people to buy. 91% of shoppers asked in one study said they were more likely to buy from a brand that they viewed as ‘authentic’ than one that they didn’t. So building that brand reputation can gain you customers in a big way.
Using marketing teams to manage your reputation may seem like something that a small company cannot manage but this isn’t the case. By having external experts who take on tasks such as checking customer feedback, managing social media and creating the right content, you can quickly build and enhance your business reputation.
A strong brand increases the number of leads that you will generate and this, in turn, means making more sales. However, you need to maintain your reputation and standards when generating these leads or the work done by the brand can vanish. Response times, voice and even the actual content you use to handle leads all needs to be consistent with the brand.
Following through on your promises also helps build that reputation. Have a clear customer process with times outlined so customers know what to expect and make sure you follow it – that way people are impressed with what you do and more likely to tell others.
That strong, cohesive brand is crucial for other areas of the business growth. Staff morale, for example, can be a problem. If staff are demotivated, don’t know what the company stands for or feel unimportant, then this can lead to bad customer service. This damages the brand.
So by having a clear brand that employees can get behind, you can offer a better service to your customers. Staff feel proud to talk about what the company does or the services that it offers. And they learn to talk with the brand’s voice, ensuring all of their communications with customers offers consistency. This makes the company seem more friendly and approachable and this is another reason that customers become loyal to the brand.
Branding also stands out to potential investors in the business. According to a study by Reuters, some 82% of investors said that the strength of a company’s brand and name recognition were important factors in a decision to get involved with a business.
What this shows is that from all aspects of the business, branding is crucial. You need to have a presence that is recognisable from your social media profiles and website through to your physical store if you have one. The brand rules how you talk to customers and ensures staff can believe in it.
There are lots of ways that branding can help with business growth and success. This means that having a strong brand and optimised strategy to use it is vital to the long-term success and profitability of your company.
While you have been busy creating and planning your business startup, you need to take some time to consider what and who you are. This is your business’ brand identity and planning it early on can go a long way in developing the message that your customers will remember about your company and its products and services.
Creating a brand takes into account all the aspects of your business to craft a message that is memorable as well as indicative of what you do. It signifies who you are, what you stand for, and can make a difference in the decisions you make now and into the future.
Appeal to Your Key Customer
When starting off brainstorming about your brand, you need to think about who your ideal customer is. Your brand should identify directly with this target market and be something that they can relate to. Think about your target market and what helps them recognise your business as one they prefer and would buy from. Use wording that appeals to them and will help them relate in a way that entices yet explains your brand in a concise and interesting way.
Using jargon or unfamiliar words that just don’t hit a note with your customer base can be a turn-off. Keep it simple and use words that compel your audience while also educating them on what you do. You want to make sure your brand resonates with your ideal customer so they can remember your business and be persuaded to buy from you because your business startup shares the same values as they do.
Examine Your Competition
It is also a good idea to have a grasp on what your competition is doing right with their branding. Investigate and dig deep into the ideas that your competitors have integrated into their brand. How are these brands identifying with customers? What is working? What is not? This little bit of investigation work can be beneficial to helping you develop your own brand as you can take key features that are advantageous and incorporate them into your own brand.
This can also help you avoid the branding concepts that your competition uses that are not as strong as they could be. Consider where your competition is missing the mark and note these areas for improvement with your own branding strategy.
Celebrate Your Individuality
You will also want to highlight the elements of your business startup that stand out. What makes you unique? Why are you different than the competition? These cornerstone separators are what you need to focus on with your brand. They can help you tell your story to your customers and set you apart from the pack in your niche.
This is where you celebrate what makes your business startup so special and make it a part of your branding message. Letting your customers know that particular aspect they can find with your business and not another can be a powerful part of your branding identification. Not only can this give you a leg up but it can be the sole deciding factor as to why a customer chooses your products and services over another.
Allow yourself to celebrate these standout features and make sure your customer base knows about them easily by seeing them in your logo, advertising, promotions, and marketing strategy. It should be your brand identifier and the reason that you are in business, to begin with.
Give Yourself Some Personality
Your brand should be the single thing that customers say about your business. They should be able to recognize your logo and the keywords that you have chosen to align with your brand. This should spell out the vision of your business startup and help your customers understand what you are all about. Try to infuse some personality into who your business is so your customer base can relate with you on an emotional level.
Appealing to the senses of your customer base can be beneficial and allow you to show your personal side too. The more you can show your customers that you are a business they need to buy from and follow, the more success your startup will have going forward. Your brand will set the stage for your business startup now and into the future. It will give you direction and be the sole factor in determining the role your business takes in the market.
Be Concise and Consistent
When you have determined the exact branding for your business startup, now is the time to utilise it to your advantage. Align your marketing strategy around your branding message and be sure to incorporate it into all your promotions. The stronger you can make the reach and visibility of your company branding, the more impact it will have on your customer base.
Many a company goes astray from their corporate branding, leaving customers confused as to what the business is all about. Set yourself on a path early on to use your branding in all media platforms and promotions to ensure that you send the right message that is clear and concise in its actions.
Be consistent in your branding and ensure your entire team is onboard with what the brand stands for and means. Instruct your staff on how to utilise the brand in every interaction so they can drive home the message with your customers.
Having a brand that signifies what your business startup stands for at the very beginning can eliminate cross signals about your business and the products and services you sell. It can create a clear definition of who you are as a business and make sure you develop a following with your customers right out the gate.
Taking the time to develop a brand strategy gives your business startup life and will define your company without question among your customers. You will have created the vision of your business startup and be able to build upon your brand moving forward, making it stronger and more powerful as time goes on.
Solopreneurs and small business owners rise and fall on the marketplace perception of their brand, also known as one’s professional reputation. For that reason, the brand merits ongoing monitoring, enhancement and promotion as a component of strategies designed to support new business acquisition and encourage repeat business. The objective is to build and maintain a good client list. A useful way to review and evaluate your brand is with what many experts consider the gold standard of strategic planning, the SWOT Analysis.
SWOT is the acronym of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Every 18 – 24 months, self-employed professionals will benefit from examining the viability of their brand, to better understand what actions enhance the brand and what might weaken it. Conduct a SWOT Analysis and use what you discover as the foundation of a strategic plan for your brand.
Strengths: expertise, competitive advantages, A-list clients, referral sources, strategic partnerships, educational or professional credentials, financial resources, influential relationships. They are internally generated and within your control. Potential actions include:
- Leveraging resources to upgrade the types of clients you work with
- Increasing sales or billable hours by a certain percentage
- Developing a strategy to obtain more repeat business
- Developing a strategy that would persuade clients to hire you for more lucrative projects
Weaknesses: whatever challenges your brand. Competitors, ineffective marketing, poor customer service, weak perceived value of your products and services. These are internal and within your control. Potential actions include:
- Determining which inadequacies have the most negative impact on revenues
- Identifying gaps that can be quickly or inexpensively remedied
- Understanding how to minimise liabilities—which business practices can you modify, professional credentials you can earn, relationships you can cultivate?
Opportunities: conditions that favour the attainment of goals. These are external and beyond your control, yet you may be able to retool and benefit from their presence. Good information about business conditions in your marketplace helps business owners to evaluate and envision the potential of short-term and long-term benefits and learn how to get the pay-off. Consider the following:
- What new developments can you leverage to bring money and prestige to your venture?
- Do you see ROI in offering new products or services?
- Are there good clients you might successfully sign or lapsed clients who, with outreach, could be willing to reactivate?
- Is there a niche market you can successfully enter?
Threats: conditions likely to damage your brand, or your ability to acquire clients and generate sufficient billable hours. These are external and beyond your control, yet you may be able to retool and escape or minimise the damage caused by their presence. This element requires your immediate attention, since it carries the potential to end, or seriously cripple, your brand and business.Has an important contact left his/her organisation, leaving you at the mercy of the new decision-maker, who has his/her own friends to hire? Or has there been a merger that resulted in the downgrading of the influence of your chief contact, who may lose the ability to green-light projects that you manage?
Has a well-connected and aggressive competitor appeared on the scene, ready to eat your market share and client list by way of a better known brand, more influential relationships, a bigger marketing budget, or other game-changing competitive advantages?
If your client contact has moved on, take that person to lunch or coffee and attempt to make the professional relationship portable. If your contact has lost influence in the new organisation chart, take him/her out to coffee and get information about the replacement, who may hire you for the next project if it’s scheduled to start quickly.
If competition has intensified, do everything possible to offer superior customer service, assert your expertise, step up your networking, enhance your thought-leader credentials and nurture your client relationships.
Implementing a strategy of protective action, for example, a brand relaunch or a pivot into more hospitable business turf, might be necessary. Stay abreast of current and potential developments in the industries you serve. Communicate with clients and stay current as to the state of their priorities and concerns. Good relationships will give you the resources of time and information that will allow you to evaluate and regroup.
Its becoming increasing common for your customers to evaluate, and make, buying decisions online. Just look at your own buying habits – how often have you reviewed the competition before even walking into a store (if you even go into a store and not buy online!). This is exactly why branding is more important than ever.
So, what is branding? It essentially boils down to your customers’ perception of your business and includes personality, character, and values. Branding should extend to your storefront/office, all signage/print materials, website and online presence, customer service and team interactions.
Where do you start?
- Do your research – who are your competitors, what do their sites look, feel and sound like. Should yours stand out from the crowd or be in line with the industry. What makes you unique and stand out from your competitors? Depending on who you serve (and understanding their needs) will dictate your direction.
- Understand who you are and who you serve (a little more research!) – what do your customers care about the most? Put your customers first – cater to their needs from your site first, start with easy to find contact information. Ask yourself if the copy is too long or is filled with jargon. Is your content arranged on the page so its easy to read, does it tell enough of the story to be helpful, do you provide testimonials to ease decision making, are your packages/pricing easy to find and understand? Will they know what they’re getting? We have a great worksheet that helps clients understand their client, if you’d like to receive a copy – please send us an email! We’d be happy to send it along.
- Define your mission statement and vision -All actions and communication should tie back to your mission statement and vision, and your brand should reflect your future goals. Let’s take for example that your vision is to recreate an industry and stand out by turning the industry on its head, sounds radical? Now what if that’s your vision, and your website is shades of grey with very formal text, heavy with jargon. How does that speak to your vision?
- Design and Copy – don’t underestimate the power of visual appeal. Create a logo that’s recognisable and choose a colour palette that reflects your values and voice. The structure of your website should be simple to navigate, with clearly laid out text, that’s easy to digest in a clear font (not too scripty and difficult to read). Copy should be professional and demonstrate experience while speaking in a language that all can understand. Your copy should be clear of typos and grammatical errors (enlist the help of an editor, or at the very least have a trusted peer review your content).
- Social media is an extension of your brand, this includes both look, feel, and content. Use social media to extend your reach with timely responses to reinforce your dedication to customer service, quality information that is curated and created in line with your vision.
And one bonus tip – create a style guide with standards for tone, voice, style; and includes standards for social media, website design, any graphic design going forward. Don’t forget to include team expectations! This is the perfect time to create guidelines for response time, signature lines, tone and professionalism.The key is – you are your brand, so ALWAYS be consistent!
I often speak to groups of small business owners and I keep hearing the same comment over and over again with many of them saying that marketers don’t matter or marketing doesn’t matter anymore.
There are many reasons I’ve heard as to why marketing doesn’t matter: “all my business comes by referral,” “I never spent money on marketing and my business grew,” “marketing is a waste of money,” “I see no value in marketing,” “marketing is all luck so why spend money on it,” and so on.
Oh, how they are so very wrong! Below are the top 3 reasons why:
1. Their definition of marketing is wrong
When business owners tell me that marketing doesn’t matter, they usually have a totally different understanding of what marketing is than those who recognise how marketing contributes to business goals where it enables you to charge the most money you can for your services and products.
Marketing is first about spending time building a solid foundation based on strategy before proposing a series of tactics aimed at lifting sales. Until the business finds a way to change the context of how their ideal customer views what they do, and then becomes become the obvious choice provider, they’ll find that their marketing efforts never seem to build momentum or gain any return on investment.
You must be able to enter the conversation taking place in the head of your customers. Or, to look at it in a different way, to be able to address the number one question on your customer’s mind at exactly the right time.
So, how do you do this? The conversation that is taking place in every prospective customer’s mind revolves around two major points. There is a problem they have, and that they don’t want… and there is a result that they want, and they don’t have.
Those who often misunderstand marketing believe that it is only about advertising campaigns, brochures, flyers, website, email marketing, SEO, trade shows, social media, copy, etc. These are the tactics – the way you implement your marketing. I’d argue that marketing is essentially the core of business strategy because it is about understanding the current customer, tapping into their fears, their goals and their aspirations and then creating products and services that the ideal customer is willing to buy from a brand they now they know, like and trust.
2. They believe either they or their co-worker can do it
Sometimes in the “do it all yourself” world of small business (or even big business when it comes to it), it’s difficult to identify the areas that require outside help. A business may be able to set up their newsletter, add plugins to WordPress, write a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and clumsily create header graphics, but you need somebody who is trained, practised, and skilled at looking strategically and holistically at the marketplace, understanding the customer, and then creating unique opportunities based on this understanding.
Just think about it for a minute; just because you have a calculator and excel does that mean you are an accountant? If you have a ruler, pencil and have watched some episodes of Grand Designs – does that make you an architect? If you post regularly to your friends on Facebook and Instagram – does that mean you are a social media expert?
So why do small businesses believe that by buying a Mac and some software they will become a designer, marketer and communications expert?
It needs to be led by a strategic marketer who can then develop an integrated marketing approach. Can you or your co-worker do this? In some cases, you can. But those who can are most likely to either come from marketing or consulting backgrounds where they have transferable skills and experience defining AND delivering against a growth strategy.
If you are a small business, you need somebody who will have a very solid, process, streamlined, consistent, repeatable approach. First, they will research and learn about your company in great depth, the dynamics of the marketplace and identify shifts, trends, and changes. From there, the strategic marketer will be able to present the different elements of your marketing plan in logical order of how you should construct them, update them, or revise them; and identify the key areas you should be focusing on – be it generating leads, converting leads, increasing transactions right down to changing prices.
3. They hire the wrong marketing help
There is a huge misunderstanding around marketing strategy, marketing tactics, and marketing execution.
There is a difference between being strategically capable, creatively capable and executionally capable.
Small business owners don’t hire a strategic marketing coach/firm to develop creative graphics and headers; nor should you hire an advertising/graphic design agency to handle marketing strategy. A small business doesn’t need to hire a consultant or a firm who is a strong marketing executor when their biggest need is a strategy for sustainable growth. You may get more attention, but not the best results.
Developing and creating marketing strategy is an essential for any types and forms of business. If you do not have one, it is a must that you create one, your efforts, time and money are likely to be inefficient and useless.
You should create your strategy which focuses on making sure that your products and services meet what the customers want and needs. This is important in order to develop a long-term and profitable relationship with your customers.
The main goal of a marketing strategy is to identify and to communicate with what benefits of your business could offer to your target market. Quite genius!
In order to achieve those goals you have set in your mind, you will need to create a smart strategy which can respond to customers’ perceptions and demands.
Tips below could help you define your key objectives and goals in reaching your customers, on the other hand, this could help you identify which customers you should focus on. Smart list for smart and effective action.
- Identify your Key Elements. The acknowledgement that your existing customers will fall into particular groups or segments is one of the key elements for a successful marketing strategy. Characterise them by their “needs” and “perspective”. Market research could help you identify these groups and especially their needs, address them in a more fruitful way than your competitors, this should be the centre of interest of your strategy.
- Strengths and Weaknesses. Your strategy takes account of how your business’ pros and cons will affect your marketing. A genuine Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis could be a great start, to begin with. This one is a substantial idea to conduct market research on your existing customers, it will also help you to build a more genuine portrait of your reputation.
- Developing your Marketing Strategy. Understanding your business’ pros and cons and the other external variables to consider, you could develop your strategy that engages to your own strengths, match them to the transpiring opportunities. These questions below could possibly help you develop your marketing strategy:
- What changes are taking place in the business’ environment?
- Are these opportunities or threats?
- What do I want to achieve?
- What are the customers’ demands and needs?
- How do I target the right potential customers?
- Which are the best way to connect with my customers?
- Is there something missing with my customer service? Do I need to improve it?
- If I change my products and services, could it be possible that it will be more profitable?
- How do I price my products?
- Which is the best way to promote my products?
- When can I finally conclude that my marketing is effective?
- Tips and Drawbacks. Think about how you can get the most out of your existing customers before looking at new markets. It’s more economical and swift than finding new customers. Take time to think and consider, could it be possible to sell more to your existing customers? You could always search for ways of improving the possession of customers. Your marketing strategy document should:
- Examine the different needs of different groups of customers
- Focus on a market niche where you can grew rapidly
- Goal to put most of your efforts into the 20 percent of customers who provide 80 percent of profits
- Makes assumptions about what customers want.
- Ignores the competition.
- Trying to compete on price alone.
- Relies on too few customers.
- Trying to grow too quickly.
- Becoming complacent about what you offer and failing to innovate.
Marketing can be tricky, but if performed right, the output is way more successful than what you have expected. Having a hard time creating a marketing strategy? Use your ideas, try to analyse and connect the dots, how can it help to make your business successful? Then once you created and put your plans to effect, all you have to do is to monitor its effectiveness and efficiency, if there is something that needs to be improved and adjusted to maintain success.